A Door Unopened

A Door Unopened
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Frisee: Salad's most obnoxious ingredient

Lettuce gone haywire.
You know what frisee is, right? That ridiculous excuse for lettuce that has some sort of bizarre, genetic afro? The leafy green that got its fronds stuck in an electric socket? The salad component most likely to tickle your nostrils, and embarrass you by behaving badly in a fine dining establishment?  The tumbleweed of the tossed? The beasty boy of the bowl? Yeah. Come on. You know the buggary bush I'm talking about.

Show of hands. How many of you out there like frisee? And when I say "like," I mean you really think it brings something to the salad bowl that would otherwise be missing, i.e., the salad would not be a "real" salad without frisee. Any hands? Any at all? Yeah. I didn't think so.

So why do they put it in salad mix as if it's something that really needs to be there? Would we miss it if they left it out? No. And when did this weed become proper salad form? Growing up, I don't remember receiving regular assaults from frisee.  These days, for whatever reason, it's a regular component of the melee. And to iceberg lettuce, R.I.P., I can only say as boring and hum-drum as it is, at least it takes its job seriously and doesn't try to fight you on the way down. Frisee could take a lesson or two from iceberg or butter or romaine or mesclun or mache or arugula for that matter.

I used to think it was just me. But I brought it up at dinner one night and my son emphatically agreed.
"I hate frisee. What good is this stuff? It's completely obnoxious."
While Theo munched his frisee as a cow would a cud, he concurred.
"Yeah. It's no good. Who needs it? They should take it out."
My husband, however, acted as if we'd both gone loopy.

Some months passed and a work friend, Natasha, brought it up during lunch.
With a faintly concealed look of disgust she asked,
"What do you think about frisee?"
"I hate the stuff. It's annoying as hell."
"Me too. What's the point?"
"Hey! I totally agree with you and so does Theo. But, Tim thinks we're crazy."

A few months went by and Tim and I were preparing salad. The frisee subject once again reared its ugly, frizzy head. Only this time, the conversation was more specific.
Tim:  "I just don't like that it's so springy. It's hard to get into your mouth."
Me:  "Right. I agree. That's exactly the problem!"
Tim:  "Oh. I thought you were saying you didn't like the flavor."
Me:  "It's not the flavor, it's the obnoxiousness I don't like."
Tim:  "Oh. Well in that case, yes I agree. It's a pain."
Ah. Someone please call NATO. We have detent.

Here is what having frisee in your salad accomplishes: In addition to fighting you on the way in and down you get dressing splattered--
  1. over your face.
  2. onto your shirt.
  3. across the table.
  4. into your eye.
  5. into someone else's eye,
In order to avoid the splattering issue, one must hack the SOB (salad of belligerence) into submission. My approach of late has been to remove the springy pieces from the salad mix, place them gently on the cutting board and slash them into submission with a sharp knife. This, I've decided, is the only way the two of us can get along. Oh, yes, you kinky kook of salad infamy. You WILL be assimilated.

What it boils down to is that frisee, leaf of hostility, is high maintenance. In order to properly choke it down it must be cleaved, mutilated and properly subjugated by blade. Unless your name is Attila, who wants to have such acts of violence as part of their salad making ritual? Certainly not I.

OK. Show of hands. How many out there would like it if they took frisee out of the line-up of usual salad suspects? Thank you. Just as I thought. It's unanimous.


  1. It's about time someone spoke the truth! Wretched weed!

  2. Thank you Russ. I always knew you to be a logical, reasonable thinker!

  3. I don't like frisee either. But I don't buy salad mix, so I never am forced to confront it.